A story from my family.
"Our second youngest child turned eighteen, two weeks ago. Here in New Zealand children are entitled to free dental care up until the age of eighteen. I had kindly reminded my son that he should book that final free appointment at the dentist, a couple of months ago but he didn't get round to it.
Last week after getting an appointment, he went off to the dentist knowing he would have to pay at least $90 for what would have been free just seven days earlier. In a dilemma the dental nurse phoned me, obviously realising the situation, to make sure I knew there would be a bill for the appointment. I explained that my son would be paying the bill and we would later talk through with him if we would contribute.
She seemed shocked that I wasn't paying all the bill and offered to post out an invoice, but I assured her we had worked through similar situations in the past with our older children and firmly believed that at eighteen, they were ready and able to handle what the world gave to them as emerging adults.
This really was a perfect start to it all, and something he would learn from and remember for some time."
Every family works differently. A parent's view of what is necessary, fair, kind and helpful when assisting their child to grow-up, is unique. My husband and I don't always see eye-to-eye on parenting issues and regularly talk through things even though we've been parenting together for thirty years.
But the fact is, children DO grow into adults. Therefore the role parents have in equipping children for independence diminishes.
The time period to make them ready starts when they are little children when we give them opportunities, small at first, to take responsibilities and their consequences in daily life situations. This provides them with practice and this practicing continues on through childhood into teenage years with them being responsible and living with the out workings of their choices. In this way by the time they reach eighteen they should be ready to take the responsibilities our community says they are entitled to.
There are Two Problems
1. Parents don't give their children the practice they need before eighteen.
2. Parents continue to treat their eighteen+ aged children, as children, by
~ BAILING THEM OUT This is usually in the form of financial assistance, here's some examples
- paying off their car speeding fines or debts
- handing out money when they have already misused what they had
- regularly paying for their drinks, meal or events when out socially
- continuing to pay them an allowance or for their clothes.. when they have a full-time job
~ MAKING CHOICES FOR THEM WITHOUT GIVING THEM FREEDOM TO CHOOSE OR SAY 'NO' Here's some examples
- booking them tickets on a 'family holiday'
- choosing what degree they are to study
- choosing what university they are to attend or which ones they are not to attend
- choosing their friends
Often parents persist in behaving in these ways towards their children not because they are control freaks but out of fear. They have little or no confidence that their son or daughter will reach independence if they stop taking responsibility for their child. But the result is alarming.
There are Two Results - Both Alarming
A. They will stay 'children' all their life. Possibly not in perceivable behaviour but definitely in habits and character. Timid, lacking confidence, lazy, not perceptive, dependent, lacking in responsibility, irresponsible, a sponger, expectant, selfish, arrogant, caught up in their own world, show little initiative.... are some of the resulting tendencies that will come from adults who stay children.
B. They will rebel and because they have little to no practiced skills in independence their choices aren't likely to lead to a successful life.
The role we play as parents is frequently a fine line therefore it's difficult to decide what to do. But we must let our children make mistakes and fall on their faces. This is the point of all that practice.
Child makes choice ---- fall on their face ---- realise to their own cost that their decision was stupid, dangerous or hurt ---- choose differently next time ---- fall on their face ---- more thinking needed because the cost to self was greater than last time ---- choose again.....
For some children this process is short because they naturally move to the best or 'right' decision early. Other children take longer, but that's ok. Remember each of your children are unique, and remember too that you have certain areas where you are rather slow to change and learn. I know I do.
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ be patient with your children and keep on track handing them responsibilities increasing in magnitude that are relevant to their age and capabilities. It can be a little scary at times but if you withhold giving them this practice you will be creating an A. or B. child. The choice is yours.